Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Highland East-West Connector History

This post was originally developed to support a May 26, 2016 with Representative Kennedy and Senator Dayton, where the East-West Connector road was be discussed. As the road was opened on May 15th I’ve updated the document to reflect the important milestones since 2016 that led to the completion of the project. 

For over 40 years an East-West Corridor road has been a part of Highland’s Master Plan. The 1980 Master Street Plan below shows two alternate routes (highlighted in yellow).

1980-06-13 Street Master Plan

The timeline below highlights milestones in the process of the east-west corridor discussion and a closely related issue, Highland Glen Park which was formerly known as the Adventure and Learning Park. A big thanks to Mayor Mark Thompson for digging up the information from before 2005. Note, click on the date to view the document which backs up the description.

Date Description

Apr 1977

The Dev Center requested a free culinary water connection from the Highland Water Company for the Adventure and Learning Park, which was under construction.

Jun 1980

Highland Street Master Plan draft shows two east-west routes. See map at the top of the page.

Nov 1980

Glen Thurgood (Highland resident and civil engineer) recommends that the southern east-west route be used.

Mar 1985

The mayor discussed a request from the Dev Center to de-annex from Highland.

Feb 1986

The mayor indicated that the Dev Center was no longer able to fund the Adventure and Learning Park. The county indicated they would be willing to fund the park. The American Fork mayor does not want to annex the park.

Oct 1989

City of Highland East-West corridor recommendations.

Feb 1992

Deseret News, “Highland Aims To Create Master Plan For Roads Connecting Area’s Cities”, Feb 13, 1992.
“… One road proposal that would require intercommunity cooperation is the proposal to cover the Murdock Canal and turn that into a roadway, Schellenberg said.‘It would be safer, more efficient in retaining water, and we already have a right of way,’ he said.”

Nov 1995

The Dev Center indicated that the Adventure and Learning park lease to the County expires on Feb 1, 1996 and that the County has no interest in continuing to operate it. The council expressed a willingness to look into entering discussions with the State/Dev Center regarding the park.

Jul 1996

Discussed a draft of an agreement for Highland to lease the Adventure and Learning Park. The park is currently being overseen by the Dev Center but they do not have the funds to maintain it.

Nov 1997

4 proposed East-West routes

1997-11-11 East-West Alternatives

Sep 1998

Council approved purchase of park plus adjoining land for $1.4M. Some discussion of an East-West road occurred. It was noted that no land was purchased from the Dev Center outside the park for an East-West connector.

Nov 1998

The mayor indicated that an agreement had been finalized with the State/Dev Center to purchase the Adventure and Learning Park and adjoining land for $200,000 a year for the next 7 years. The first payment of $200,280 has already been made.

Oct 2000

Flyer for a public hearing on the East-West corridor. 12 options were shown.

2000-10-25 East-West Alternatives

Oct 2000

Daily Herald, “Road Leads to Controversy”, Oct 31, 2000 - article covering the public hearing.
’This is a tough decision, Adamson said. ‘Its a no-brainer that the connection should be made. It should have been done 20 to 30 years ago.”

Aug 2002

Bidding for east-west road through park authorized.

Feb 2004

Work session on Highland Glen park. Discussion included east-west road options. Because the park is 6F land (developed using Federal funds) a $200K environmental study would need to be performed in order to run a road through the park. Note, it is my understanding that East-West road through the park did not materialize due to 6F issues combined with a threaten lawsuit by residents.

May 2009

Settlement agreement with the residents of Pheasant Hollow requiring the city to involvement residents in any decision making process regarding the east-west connector road alignment and to be transparent. Highland may proceed with the purchase of the Jensen and Walkenhorst properties. Note, sometime between 2004 and 2009 the city and county settled on the southern route for the east west connecter and began purchasing property along that route.

Jan 2010

Public hearing on land swap with AF to help align boundaries to support the Murdock Connector.

Aug 2010

Discussion regarding money already spent for a design of the Murdock Connector and referenced a 2008 decision to purchase two homes in Pheasant Hollow, which from my point of view identifies the decision to build the East/West Connector using the southern route no later than 2008.
Highland City has had preliminary design work completed by Civil Science for the Murdock Connector project and has expended $186,604.98 for that work. The City has provided documentation acceptable to Utah County to obtain reimbursement for the design work. Utah County agrees to reimburse Highland City within 30 days of execution of the agreement.
The Murdock Connector has been determined by the Mountainland Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Regional Planning Committee to receive a portion of the revenues of the Part 19 Tax not to exceed $4,000,000 for direct costs of the Highway. The City and County will have a representative meet together at least monthly to discuss progress, design, construction and costs of the project.
The County will not obligate the City to any expense that exceeds the $4,000,000 without prior approval of the City. The City shall own and be responsible for the maintenance, repair and replacement of Highway.This road came about from a November 2008 decision from an Executive Session to purchase the Walkenhorst and Jensen homes in Pheasant Hollow. MAG was willing to come up with the funds for the project.“

Sep 2010

Murdock Connector discussed. Mayor indicates approval for right-of-way through state land has not been given.

Nov 2010

Murdock Connector work session. Larry Ellertson, Utah County Commissioner was present. Cost of road (road, engineering, and construction management) was estimated to be $3.3M. The county would fund up to $4M. The Mayor felt there was a high probability that a right-of-way would be granted by the state.

Mar 2011

3.5 hour discussion on whether or not to allow the mayor to enter into an interlocal cooperation agreement with the county for the Murdock Connector. Approved 4 to 0 with one council member abstaining. Note, the funding for the project was  originally scheduled to expire Oct of 2015 but has been extended to 2016. Click here to see current MAG project map. You will need to click on the East-West Connector in Highland to see the project dates and verify that it is funded for 2016. 

Mar 2011

Daily Herald, “Highland signs agreement for new east/west road”, Mar 6, 2011.

Apr 2011

General Plan amended to include the Murdock Connector. Passed unanimously

Jan 2014

In the minutes of the Dev Center governing board it states that they recommended that an east-west connector road terminate at the NE corner of the property (just south of the high school and near the 4 way intersection. Also prior to bringing a proposal to the Dev Center it must be shown that a right of way exists for the road on non-state owned land.

Feb 2014

USDC Properties Master Plan executive summary states the following:

The composition of the plan includes the following attributes:
Two alternative alignments for the planned Murdock Connector road.

The East-West connector is mentioned 18 times in the plan with the a route starting at either the SW corner of the property or the NW section and ending in the NE corner. The plan also discusses curb cuts on N. County Blvd and specifically mentions Harvey Blvd.
Curb Cuts: Four curb-cuts are proposed along the North County Boulevard. One of those connection points is proposed at Harvey Boulevard, where Highland City has proposed linking the Murdock Connector.”
Later in the document (pg. 55) the plan specifically notes that Harvey Blvd is being analyzed as a signalized intersection and identifies this road as a collector (pg. 56 see gold colored road below)

2014-02 USDC Road Hierarchy

Mar 2014

Concurrent resolution (S.C.R 5 Concurrent Resolution Supporting the Master Plan – Sponsored by Senator Margaret Dayton). of the State House and Senate was signed by the Governor on March 12th. It state “… NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, expresses support for the Utah State Development Center's master plan.” This was passed unanimously in the Senate and with only one Nay vote in the House.

Dec 2015

East-West Connector preliminary plans:

2015-12-08 Preliminary Plans

Dec 2015

UDOT email indicating support for the plan. “… We strongly support Highland City and Utah County in making this important connection. Creation of such as grid system helps our regional and local systems function well into the future.”

Dec 2015

Minutes of Dev Center board meeting where the East-West connector was discussed it is an interesting read. The final approved motion reads as follows:
After additional discussion Paul Smith, Division Director DSPD requested that the motion be restated with conditions of approval for the Murdock Connector Road to be met as follows:
1. Future access agreements be written into the proposal.
2. Determine the purchase cost of property at fair market value.
3. Define, develop and select design of road for lower traffic speed and intersections.
4. Construction cost will be paid 100% by Utah County. USDC will incur no expense.
5. Highland City will maintain the developed road.
6. Trail designs will remain consistent with the vision of the USDC Properties Master Plan
Bill Exeter seconded, the motion which passed in favor of approval to proceed with design/building of the Murdock Connector Road with Harvey Boulevard Alignment. Meetings will be set; to work on the elements of detail required to proceed between interested parties to include the Governing Body, City Mayors and Utah County

Feb 2016

Highland City received a letter signed by President of the Utah Senate, the Speaker of the Utah House, Rep. Mike Kennedy, Senator Margaret Dayton, and the General Counsel for the Utah Legislature stating the concurrent resolution approving the master plan does not constitute legislative approval for the sale, exchange, or long-term lease of land and that such approval “is usually accomplished by passing a joint resolution.”

Mar 2016

HJR 10 Joint resolution authorizing the lease of a portion of the Utah State Development passed unanimously in both houses (see Utah State Developmental Center Properties Master Plan page 43).

UCSD Retail

May 2016

State code (62A-5-202.5) enacted by SB0172 dealing with the composition and duties and powers of the Development Center board.
The 9 member board “shall: (a) act for the benefit of the developmental center and the division; … (e) approve the sale, lease, or other disposition of real property or water rights associated with the developmental center, as described in Subsection 62A-5-206.6(5).

May 2016

State code (62A-5-206.6) enacted by SB0172 dealing with the process of selling land. “The board shall:
(i) approve the sale, long-term lease, or other disposition of real property or water rights associated with the developmental center;
(ii) secure the approval of the Legislature before offering the real property or water rights for sale, long-term lease, or other disposition; and Utah Code Page 2
(iii) if the Legislature's approval is secured, as described in Subsection (5)(b)(ii), direct the Division of Facilities Construction and Management to convey, lease, or dispose of the real property or water rights associated with the developmental center according to the board's determination.”

May 2016

Senator Dayton penned a follow-up article to a meeting with Highland residents held on May 26 (click here see notes from this meeting). In the article she said among other things that

  • Utah has no shortage of roads, but there is only one State Developmental Center
  • There are those who would like to fragment the center’s land with roads, and use it in ways other than its intended purposes.  I hope that this will not be the final outcome of current discussions.”

I cannot resist pointing out that the very plan Senator Dayton introduced to the legislature in 2014 and was passed by both houses with only one no vote and was unanimously reaffirmed by the legislature in 2016 defines a plan that “fragments” the center’s land with roads. Moreover the proposed east-west connector is among the roads included in this plan.

Jul 2016

In July, The Daily Herald published two articles on the connector and an editorial
6-Jul: Herald editorial: Time is right for east-west connector
6 Jul: Crossing the divide: Highland seeks east-west connector
14-Jul: USDC Board moves forward on Murdock Connector traffic study, request for proposals

Nov 2016

At the November 1, 2016 city council meeting we approved a sewer connection with Highland for the Golf Training Center that will be build just east of the AF retention pond located on Alpine Hwy (see item 8). This is pertinent to the East-West Connector as it is likely that a turnout lane will be required to facilitate entrance to the center from the west bound lane of the East-West Connector.

2016-11-01 Golf Training Center 1

Dec 2016

6-Dec: Highland passes resolution supporting Murdock Connector – similar resolution passed by American Fork.
23-Dec: Daily Herald North Utah County residents petition state for Murdock Connector
Link to the Change.org petition “Support building the Murdock Connector” initiated by Robert Shelton (American Fork City Councilman)

Jan 2017

UDOT is scheduled to conduct a road study on the impact of the East-West connector.  The project was funded by the Mountainland Association of Governments and should be completed sometime in February. Until this is completed legislative approval cannot start.

Feb 2017

One page summary report of the East-West connector study was released on Feb 23rd (Click here to see the summary). The following are highlights from the summary:

  • Demand exists for a new east-west connector.
  • The connector will primarily serve local trips.
  • The connector will improve traffic operations
    throughout the study area, particularly on SR-92.
  • The study shows that an east-west connector would benefit the study area by providing better local access and
    connectivity between Alpine Highway and North County Boulevard. The connector would predominantly be used
    for short local trips, leaving the longer regional trips on SR-92 and North County Boulevard.

Mar 2017

The final report (clear here to view it) was released after the  legislative session was over. No surprises. Click here for an analysis of the report along with charts and graphs along with key contacts for those who want to exert influence on this issue.

May 2017

The USDC Board met to discuss the land development project (S. of Lone Peak) and whether or not to approve an East-West Connector through state owned property. They moved

“that the USDC Governing Board make a resolution to the Utah State Legislature. Request that the Legislature authorize the USDC Governing Board permission to move forward with development of the entire 143 Master Plan Acreage. Stipulate, that as the design process moves forward, that design proposals will be brought back to the Governing Board for review and approval.
1. As a part of that resolution, that the noted Central Connector Road (also known as the Murdock Connector Road) be approved with the following request:
a. Limit the speed to 25 mph.
b. Central Connector Road will have 2 lanes, with no center turn lane.
c. Bike lanes will be added along both sides of the road.
d. No roadside parking.”

The full minutes for the meeting can be found by clicking here.

You can also listen to a recording of the meeting by clicking here. The first 18 minutes are mostly about the land development project south of the High School. Start at minute 11:30 for an interesting dialog about the project. Part of this involves talking about impact fees associated with the project. These would be charged to the developer. The impact fees referenced were $1.9M to put in culinary water and another $1.9M for sewer. Note, the total outlay for the sewer project is estimated to be $2.8M but only $1.9M would be impact fee eligible. This means the city will be responsible for $0.9M of the cost.

The executive director of the Mountainland Association of Government, Andrew Jackson, gets introduced after 17:45 and discusses how road size and speed are determined. My take away was that the board listened to the director's comments and then did what they wanted based on their opinions rather than approve a motion to defer to the judgement of those with expertise in road/traffic issues. However, listen and make your own judgement.

Jul 2017

USDC Board meeting. Board reaffirms their recommendation for a 2 lane 25 mph east-west connector road. They also discuss boundary adjustments between Highland and Alpine. Scott Smith asks to delay discussion relative to the boundary change until after the election. Project manager disagrees. However, the both agree that the State would benefit from creating a bidding war between American Fork and Highland for the land south of the High School.

Here is a link to a location where links to the agenda, minutes and an audio recording for the July 23rd meeting can be found. The most interesting part of the meeting starts at about minute 10 of the audio recording. Bill Exeter is discussing the land development project.

Oct 2017

Shawn Seager, Director, Regional Planning Department, Mountainland Association of Governments  provided the following information to Mayor Thompson.

Find an abbreviated funding history for the Murdock Connector project below and attached in a Word Document as per your request.

Murdock Connector Funding History from MAG Staff perspective.

Mountainland Association of Governments Transportation Improvement Project Number 47
UDOT PIN 14088
Project type: New Road
  • $3,501,119 Available in 2018
  • $   668,881 Spent on Preliminary Engineering
  • $1,930,485 Spent on Right of Way
  • $     23,377 Spent UDOT Traffic Study
  • $6,123,862 Total project allocation to date

Project Description: This project will add a new east west connector road between SR-74(100 E / Alpine Hwy) and SR-129 (North County Blvd).

  • 2009 & 2010 Two residential houses and 3 vacant residential lots were purchased at a total of $1,930,485 for corridor preservation.
  • 2010 Project Selected by the MAG MPO $4.0M 3rd Quarter Regional Roads Bond.
  • 2011 Utah County Added $170k 3rd Quarter Corridor Preservation Bond at the request of Highland City from the North County BLVD project.
  • 2011 Utah County rearranged funding sources. $216K 3rd quarter Regional Roads Bond, $1.984M was moved to 2nd quarter cash, and $1.97M was moved to 3rd quarter Regional Roads cash.
  • 2013 Utah County rearranged funding sources. $1.984M 2nd Quarter cash, $1.263M on 3rd Quarter Regional Roads Bond, $918K 3rd Quarter Regional Roads cash.
  • 2014 Utah County rearranged funding sources. $1.984M 2nd Quarter Cash, $1,268M on 3rd Quarter Regional Roads Bond, $972k 3rd Quarter Regional Roads cash.
  • 2017 Utah Department of Transportation Traffic Study $23K

Mar 2018

HJR 7 passed the House and Senator with limited opposition in the Senate. It is a relatively short resolution that concludes with the following:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature, in accordance with Utah Code Subsection 62A-5-206.6(5), authorizes the governing board to approve the sale or long-term lease of land associated with the USDC for the purpose of building an east-west connector road, according to specifications provided by the Department of Transportation in collaboration with the governing board, and in consideration of the resolution passed by the governing board on May 17, 2017.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Legislature directs that the Department of Transportation and all other governmental entities involved in the construction of the east-west connector road take all reasonable steps to mitigate any negative impact on the Utah State Developmental Center or private property.

Next steps include beginning the design process so that we know exactly where the road will need to be located, finalize negotiations with Pheasant Hollow, obtaining a lease or purchase agreement with the Developmental Center Board.

The city is negotiating with the leadership of the Pheasant Hollow subdivision with respect to mitigating the impact of the road. As I understand it they (PH) would like for the Murdock Canal trail to be constructed on the south side of the east-west connector. The would require purchasing land from Fox Hollow Golf Course which would necessitate the consent from the city councils of Lehi, American Fork, and Pleasant Grove. Additionally, BYU has executed a 100 year lease agreement with the cities to build a golf training facility immediately south of Pheasant Hollow. Putting the trail south of the road would impact this facility and require the construction of a vertical retaining wall according Mark Johnson, the new mayor of Lehi and a contractor involved in designing the facility.

Jul 2018

July 26, 2018 Council approved a cooperative agreement between MAG, Utah County, Highland, and UDOT for the management of the design and construction of the East-West connector road. Click here to view minutes of this special council meeting. The agreement was signed Aug 28, 2018

Mar 2019

March 18, 2019. Contract with JUB approved for design of the project.

Nov 2019

MAG unanimously approved an additional $7M to complete the East-West connector. Click here to view the meeting minutes (bottom of page 3).

May 2021

On May 15th at 1 PM the Canal Blvd extension between Alpine Hwy and N. County Blvd was officially opened. Click here to view photos from opening event on Facebook


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